Despite the T rating, the game is filled to the brim with grim material. From the monstrous serial killings of young women and their facial mutilation (described but thankfully their corpses conveniently have masks), to the more Ax-Crazy members of The Empire brutally slaughtering people explicitly. The player even has to carry corpses multiple times throughout the game, including of their fellow Scions after it gets raided while the workers involved barely care at all. This and all the harsh language and sultry material make it seem like the Bloodless Carnage is the only real barrier between the ratings, while also firmly establishing that Eorzea is irrevocably tainted by horrors and warfare all around.
The Ultima Weapon's entrance. You think you've beaten Garuda, but her subjects' worship makes her unbeatable. Then Gaius appears, and taunts her. She responds by forcing the captive beastmen of the other primals to pray to Ifrit and Titan, and with a push from Garuda, they manifest right then and there. All three primals you have fought are in one place. Couldn't get any worse, right? But then Ultima Weapon drops in. Ifrit attacks it first... and is defeated in seconds. And is then absorbed into Ultima Weapon. It then makes short work of Titan, absorbing him too. Garuda is the only one left. Up until now, Garuda hasn't shown anything other than contempt for everything other than herself. But faced with Ultima Weapon, she expresses pure fear for the first time. But she's unable to stop the inevitable; once Ultima Weapon gets a hold of her, it crushes her head, absorbing the third primal. This thing has the power of three primals, and is in Garlean hands.
Tempering. Not only can a primal convert someone to their side in a burst of power — with no way to prevent, dodge, or block it, unless you have the Echo — there is no known way to reverse the process. Tempered victims are actually routinely killed off by the good guys as a result of this, because they view it as a Fate Worse Than Death and leaving them alive only serves to potentially strengthen the primal that has them under control. Worse, while tempering immediately twists loyalty to the primal, Color-Coded for Your Convenience isn't necessarily enforced. Tempered sylphs are generally identifiable by their purple coloring instead of green (although they still have the power to shapeshift so even that isn't a certain thing), but we see friendly Amalj'aa with red clothing that help new Black Mages, and tempered soldiers wearing the clothes of their country as they commit treason. The Beastmen tribe and Summoner quests only augment the horror here : *anyone* can be tempered or claim someone else to be tempered.
What's worse, is that it's known that staying in an area that's strongly aspected in one type of aether (such as water or fire) often causes harmful effects. For those who cross the point of no return, if they're lucky, they'll suffer a quick death with as little pain as possible. If they're unlucky, they'll begin suffering (painful) mutations caused by overaspecting in that aether, which will likely kill them, just more painfully. As the Tempering process involves the Primal giving a burst of power with the aether they are attuned to, this protects them from most of the lethal affects of overaspecting but still has its other drawbacks of causing disfigurement, mutations, and pain if the Primal so chooses. Of those tempered by Ifrit, it seems the most extreme we've seen thus far is some "Tempered" enemies near Za'harak appearing to be ashen and soot covered with eyes as black as coals. For Leviathan's "Drowned", as seen in Sastasha (Hard), this goes as far as him inflicting pain with it and causing those who have failed him to become more and more disfigured, replacing their heads to become more Seakin creature in appearance, such as that of a giant squid or jellyfish like, while the courtesans and serving ladies who were loyal to those pirates have been turned into lahmias (snake/fish bodied creatures) and pleading with or getting enraged at the players seeing their new appearances. Let's be glad that the other Primals we've seen thus far are not as interested in Tempering the spoken races for their own reasons.
The hedge sculptures in Haukke Manor's courtyard. Looming humanoid figures with holes through their heads — a reminder that the lady of the hous has been murdering beautiful young women and shredding their faces beyond recognition...and, as the tooltip of one of these corpses implies, quite possibly raped...
And then Hard mode makes it worse, when we're shown just how easy it is to turn a normal person into a demon with the Succubi turning Wood Wailers, who went to clean up the place after you were last there of any remaining threats, via their Demonize power. Now think back to some of the enemy names from the original Haukke Manor mode...yeah.
The release of Heavensward has added another layer of horror to this tale. Deep inside the Great Gubal Library is an old journal which reveals that its author, a Sharlayan scholar, was the one who convinced Lady Amandine to transform herself into a Succubus, and even helped oversee the ritual. He quickly realized he had made a terrible mistake once the ritual was complete and voidsent began overtaking the manor.
A great deal of The Lost City of Amdapor certainly qualifies. For anyone familiar with Nausicaä, the ruins in this dungeon bear a striking similarity to the forgotten kingdoms grown over by the toxic jungle, and you can plainly see the horrifying corruption spread far into the distance - what isn't obscured by clouds of choking spores, at any rate. Worse yet is the initial boss, a half-decayed, still-living goobue that routinely devours your fellow party members. If you don't kill it fast enough, the lifeless corpses of your comrades will be regurgitated onto the pock-marked stone flooring. And then you get to the interior of Amdapor, seeing the marvelous architecture that once made up the whole city, and discover Diabolos at the end...and then that music starts playing...
The previews for Tam-Tara Deepcroft (Hard) showed the final boss arena to be littered with pentagrams, runes, and the name "Avere" repeated over and over again in Eorzean script. Avere was the name of the tank of an NPC party who shows up during the initial main story Tam-Tara questline. He died because his fiancee Edda, a Conjurer, couldn't keep up on heals. She originally kept his severed head so that she could give him a burial...but all signs point to Edda trying to resurrect him using Blood Magic.
Later previews showed Edda with a giant, terrifying, demonic-looking head that has vaguely Ahriman-like features, except that its arms are its nerve endings.
Previews also showed Edda self-harming in order to power up said head. The animations for it are...unsettling.
Later, once you do the dungeon (and are in a party willing to read the 'Torn Folio' lore items), Edda specifically references the player character, giving an added touch of skin-crawling regret for earlier sympathies, and shades of My God, What Have I Done?.
The ending of the quest, "Corpse Groom": After you defeat the Avere-head, Edda accidentally falls from the platform to her death. You go outside to assure her old teammate that it's all over — and he looks across the chamber to see Edda standing there looking at him with the creepiest◊Slasher Smile. The way Edda appears wouldn't look out of place in Fatal Frame. He promptly flees, you turn around — and she's not there. Sure, Paiyo's exaggerated facial reaction's kinda funny, but still...
Another terrifying thing is the way she dies. Not the fact that she fell, but the fact that she's smilingas she falls...◊
And worse? Yoshida has stated that he isn't quite finished with Edda's story, which means we haven't seen the last of her.
She's back for the Palace of the Dead.
She can occasionally appear for a few seconds in any of the three main towns. One of the places she can appear is in the Acorn Orchard in New Gridania. The Acorn Orchard is a playground filled with children.
Could also double as a Tear Jerker, however, as Edda might be looking at the life she and Avere could have had but will never have again.
Midgardsormr evokes this easily. For 15 years, everyone has presumed he's been dead and his charred body is a reminder of the first major defeat, and failure at invading Eorzea, for the Garlean Empire, at the terrible cost of transforming the once beautiful river, waterfalls, and forest-filled Mor Dhona into the landscape it is today. In reality, he's just been asleep for all these years, quietly observing and calling to his followers and children, none to happy for the actions Ishgard has taken against Dragonkind. His first act upon beginning to stir awake is to begin calling his children to gather the Dragon Horde together to prepare for a massive assault on Ishgard. His second act is to question the Warrior of Light's accomplishments while easily stripping them of Hydaelyn's protective light, draining the power of the 6 elemental crystals they've gathered and forcing them into a covenant with him. Oh sure, you've still got free will, but from here on out the Mother Crystal isn't going to come bail your rear out of another no-win situation like she did with protecting you from Ultima and neither is your new "friend".
Worse yet, because you are now somehow bound to the Guardian of Silvertear you are, by all accounts, a Heretic according to Ishgard culture. The only reason you aren't considered one yet is because the Scions and Midgardsormr won't, or haven't, revealed this fact to them so far. If they do, the fragile alliance with the Scions and the City-states with Ishgard WILL break and then you'll be dealing with yet another faction as your enemy.
On the other hand, given that as of Patch 2.55 Estinien, who is similarly bound to Nidhogg, is cooperating with Ishgard against the Dravanian horde, the chances of you being declared a Heretic have decreased.
Also, comparison between the English and Japanese versions of the dialog makes it clear that according to Midgardsormr, Hydaelyn has no issue with this and it was apparently part of a pact they had previously made. Meaning the Mother Crystal is willingly forsaking you in order to let Midgardsormr test you, simply because he asked her to.
Nabriales' fight. Up until now you've been protected by Hydaelyn. But, thanks to Midgardsormr, that's no longer the case. Additionally, unlike Lahabrea, he has no need to take things lightly on you nor does he taunt you into risking to have to kill a friend of your own to temporarily banish him. You get to find out just how much the Ascians at this point have been holding back their true power. And despite you finding out that the Scions have had the tool needed to call forth a massive amount of aether all this time in their possession, it still isn't enough to destroy a trapped Ascian, who can very much fight back even when sealed in a White Auracite gem. It takes the Heroic Sacrifice of Moenbryda to give you the extra aether needed to destroy Nabriales. And if Midgardsormr's words are anything to consider, hers might not be the last death needed to repeat this process to other Ascians.
Even Hildibrand, the side story meant to be lighthearted and hilarious, is not immune to this. In 2.5, we learn that Ul'dah's shady dealings even extend well into the past when the ancient nation of Belah'Dah split into Ul'Dah and Sil'Dah. Namely, Ul'Dah created "Trader's Spurn", aka zombiefication powder, which turns anyone struck by it into a zombie. And they used it during their war with Sil'Dah. Then, just to Kick the Dog a little more, they set up a secret organization known as the "Arbiters", whose role was to alter the historical records to make Ul'dah look good by blaming the creation and use of Trader's Spurn on Sil'Dah. The truth, when revealed, horrifies one of the Arbiters so about what's been hidden in the past she resigns her position and calls for reformations, if not the total removal, of the Arbiters.
To rub more salt in the wound, those ruins you see near the Golden Bazaar and by the edges of the Sagoli Desert? That's probably what was left over during the war and the zombies you see roaming around are likely the former residents of Sil'Dah, who are now wandering aimlessly, still seeking revenge on Ul'dah (which is probably why they attack the players who wander by).
Additionally, we learn from Gilgamesh just how frighteningly easy it is to summon and create a primal. It does not require any pre-established "godhood" or "saint" status with a flock of believers. It just takes Crystals, a strong desire, and prayer for any being to exist. And it takes as little as one person, with about a dozen and a half crates of crystals to do so. It may not be as strong as the traditional idea of what a Primal is, but a formidable foe nonetheless.
On the subject of Primals, 2.5 gives us a proper Odin Trial. And what do we learn from it? Odin is possibly not the True primal, rather his sword Zantetsuken is. And each time Odin is defeated, as Zantetsuken is immensely aetherically dense, no one gives pause to wonder why that doesn't disappear, figuring it's just an exotic metal weapon. Meanwhile, Zantetsuken just slowly gathers aether back to itself and forms a new wielder and body. Worse yet, it takes just any fool who wants to wield the sword itself to touch it to be instantly tempered by it.
Fighting Cerberus, a 3-headed monstrosity, in the World of Darkness is unsettling enough by itself, but once he breaks free from his chains he gets a lot more aggressive. The beast hurls up what looks like purple vomit and standing in it makes the monster instantly rush at you and tear you to shreds for a One-Hit Kill. If you managed to get shrunk by the Gastric Juice and go in the vomit, Cerberus swallows you alive and the game actually transitions into a new "area" where you get to wander around inside the boss' stomach and it pulsates to boot. Now you're slowly taking damage (and it builds up over time) from the stomach acids and blob creatures with one too many eyeballs spawn and attack you. The only way out is to damage the stomach walls enough until you're forced out through regurgitation. During your time in the stomach, the battle music gets quieter and muffled to add to the creepy factor and you're completely separated from the alliances that are still fighting the creature from the outside.
Also, if Cerberus dies with people inside, he won't regurgitate. Players can use Return or wait for the game to push them out, but the first time it's pretty jarring. Fortunately, this was fixed in a hotfix shortly after 2.5's release and the players are pushed out as soon as Cerberus dies.
Raubahn in 2.55's story. Up until now, Raubahn has been a fairly stoic character and can handle almost any situation pretty rationally and calmly, but 2.55 shows what happens if you push him to far. The Sultana is killed, and Raubahn is in complete grief and denial about her death. Meanwhile, Teledji Adeledji is taunting him about burying the sultana and how she must have felt gracious that someone "cut her strings." Raubahn has none of it and proceeds to cleave Teledji in two, all while showing a glimpse of his face that almost seems demonic while he does it. He targets Lolorito next, seemingly bent on going on a murderous rampage, but gets his arm cut off by Ilberd. And then, after Ilberd admits to killing the Sultana, he flies into yet another murderous rampage and lets out an inhuman roar. Even though he regains his senses and helps the Warrior of Light and the Scions escape, this drastic character shift in Raubahn is unsettling.
Nanamo's death scene is utterly chilling. One moment you're having a rather nice chat with the Sultana over her abdication of the throne and her plans for the future of Ul'Dah, one part of said plan being your support of Raubahn as her would-be idea for a republic roughs itself out. Then she takes a slow sip of her wine...and then it hits. Her likely last healthy heartbeat rings out as her eyes go wide, the poison taking effect as she silently chokes and reaches out to the Warrior of Light for help, before slumping over onto the floor, dead. It's absolutely jarring seeing one of the most kind hearted and unanimously good characters you've come to befriend and likely respect be murdered so gruesomely. The fact that it's the framing for a series of Wham Episodes doesn't help anything.
The fat chocobo minion pet is adorable and tumbly, then you get it and read its minion description in the journal. How did it get that fat as a hatchling? It cannibalized its siblings.
While you never get to witness it, Novv tells you his backstory when you gain the rank of friendly in the Sahagin beast tribe and it's quite chilling. Novv was the infamous Scarlet Sea-Devil during his heyday and when he came back home one day, he found his entire clutch completely slaughtered with bodies of his children piled on top of each other while only a few hidden eggs survived. Novv couldn't do anything but howl and cry until he had no energy left to mourn, and from there he decided to take his remaining unborn children and move elsewhere so he can raise them away from the violence while retiring from his pillaging and killing ways. You can only imagine the anguish Novv felt seeing his family taken from him with their bodies serving as a reminder for what he had done.
The Dark Knight quests. Despite having survived many ordeals (which may have included the Calamity itself, a war with the Garlean Empire, the beast tribes constantly summoning primals, and even the betrayal in Ul'Dah by the Monetarist and Crystal Braves, the player character/Warrior of Light has remained stoic through it all. Then, one day, they come across a fallen knight in black armor and find a Soul Stone. Nothing at all unusual to them as the WoL at this point; Heck, the skills and transfers of abilities to them will probably be useful, right? Well, this soul stone reacts much more differently than the others before and, after blacking out, the WoL finds the fallen knight is somehow alive and well, and knows them by name. You, in character, don't question this. Matter of fact, you almost get a sense of familiarity from this "Fray". At first, there's nothing too unseemly, but as you delve further and further into your new Dark Knight powers, people start noting you've changed a bit, and are acting differently now. Then the Wham Episode hits, and Fray reveals they are you, or rather, the persona of your psyche that has suffered pain, loss, anger, betrayal, fear...some of which are from people whose lives you've saved. You aren't the invincible, unflappable hero you think you are and you, the WoL, can fall into darkness just as easily as anyone else can.
And then there's the completely insane noblewoman that replaces Fray as the questline's Big Bad.
At the very end of the questline, Ystride, said noblewoman, gives you, Riella, and Sidurgu a chillingly demented Motive Rant/"The Reason You Suck" Speech. She madly claims that Riella's death is "the will of the Fury" before laughing maniacally. And finally, just to cement how truly far past the Moral Event Horizon she is, her last act before Sidurgu finishes her off is to give a deranged Slasher Smile.
The cutscene you get if you fail to defeat Bismarck before he wrecks the island you're fighting him on. You get a special cutscene where your character is in pain and unable to keep fighting, and they look towards the other direction to see Bismarck flying towards them, mouth wide open. As the screen fades to black, the last things you hear are ground breaking followed by a swallowing sound. This is, so far, the only cutscene in the game where it actually shows your character die.
Azys Lla, full stop. It's essentially the Allagan version of Big MT, and is where they conducted the research behind almost all of the horrific, mechanical or gene-spliced monstrosities you've faced to date. The fact that the various interfacing nodes are entirely cavalier about what went on there (and that one of the areas is a museum, meaning this place was a tourist attraction before Allag's fall) demonstrates just how far gone the Allagans were, culturally, by the end.
The nodes also demonstrate that the Allagan would randomly conscript citizens for dangerous tasks, with the worst example being a node that recruits test subjects for the city's "compliance systems". The node expresses disappointment that the robots failed to kill you.
Worst of all, this place is also the Can for The Warring Triad, and the aftermath of Thordan's actions are allowing them to break free. Eorzea might be this close to another Calamity, this time involving three Elder Primals
The Vault Conspiracy in 3.1. As it turns out, Ystride was far from the only dangerously unstable member of Ishgard's clergy. The absolutely insane lengths the Vault Priest and Ser Seninough go to in a desperate attempt to deny the truth of the Dragonsong War and to undermine Aymeric's reforms are downright chilling.
The demented Slasher Smile The leader of the conspiracy makes when he tries to throw an innocent girl to her death. All while madly claiming that her death will be your fault for your "heresy". Hilda mentions if you speak to her after completing 3.1, that despite whatever methods the Inquisition use on him, the Priest refuses to confess and tell who the other conspirators are. And that apparently he still has that deranged smile on his face to this day.
Calcabrina is the final boss of the Antitower dungeon introduced in 3.2. The boss that gave many players nightmares as a still sprite with creepy music is now fully animated in high definition (with remixed creepy music). Have fun.
Nidhogg in Estinien's body. He arrives with large eyes growing out of his right forearm and left shoulder surrounded by grotesque black flesh and sprays Vidofnir's blood over the symbol of peace the Ishgardians had just unveiled.
The sheer brutality of his attack on Vidofnir, and the message its meant to send. Nidhogg has fallen so far that he no longer cares if you're Ishgardian or Dravanian. If you try to come between him and his revenge, he will stop at nothing to utterly destroy you.
The boss of the Fist of the Son in Alexander, Ratfinx Twinkledinx. In spite of his hilarious name, he manages to be terrifying, as he is a mad scientist Goblin who performs his experiments on other goblins. The floor of his arena has a large number of discarded Goblin gas-masks strewn about, and Goblins never remove their masks. Midway through the fight, you find out what happened to his test subjects when you are attacked by a grotesque chimera beast that appears to be formed from many goblins fused together. Suffice to say, even the Illuminati are probably happy when you kill Ratfinx.
3.4 has Arbert, the Warrior of Darkness, reveal why he is so desperate to kill the Warrior of Light. Arbert and his companions came from another world (known as The First since there's thirteen similar worlds) and said world is being destroyed by a flood of light. Like the Warrior of Light, Arbert and his party were just normal people looking for some jobs and they eventually became the slayers of the dark and heroes to everyone. They fought the evils back until they ceased to exist, which meant that light was now completely unstoppable and is now consuming their world. Unlike the Void, which is the result of The Thirteenth world being consumed by total darkness, a world of pure light is a white void where nothing can exist. That's right, the void created by the darkness, while twisted, still has some form of life while the void created by light has nothing. To even travel to the world where the Warrior of Light resides in, Arbert and his friends had to die in order to transcend with the power of Echo and he did the deed himself so no one else would have to. It's no wonder he is desperate to fix what went wrong; if The First is completely consumed by light, then Arbert would have lost everything and failed.
3.5 reveals the true face hidden behind the Gryffin's mask: to the surprise of nobody, it turns out to be Ilberd, more deranged than ever. Blinded by his hatred, he devised a plan to sacrifice his fellow Ala-Mhigo refugees and channel their anger thanks to Nidhogg's eyes inside of him, in order to become a Primal even more powerful than Bahamut. Holding both eyes in his hands, Ilberd voluntarily falls to his death with an unsettling smile on his face. The next scene completely averts the Disney Villain Death trope, as we see the impact leading to Ilberd's death (with a gruesome sound and the screen flashing red, no less), and we have a monstrous shot of the piles of bodies of everyone who died for his twisted ideal (with dark, gloomy lighting and lifeless expressions, suiting people who got slaughtered). Just when you may think he failed his objective, as he is dead, alongside everyone else, the eyes react, and they gather the energy and seething hatred of everyone who died nearby to form and give birth to a new Primal. This is scary on a whole new level, as Primals so far always needed followers and crystals to allow themselves to exist: this one is able to sustain himself on lingering pure hatred alone. And just to ramp things up further, an echoy version of Answers (the same song played during the Calamity and the fight against Bahamut Prime) plays in the background.
Teleportation seems like such a trivial thing that you don't think about it too much, but when something does go wrong, it can be extremely chilling to see what happens and you get to see two people suffer from it. Y'shtola and Thancred during the bloody banquet in 2.5 escaped by using Flow, a spell that is too dangerous to use and works like an unstable Teleport/Return. Y'shtola could not find a way to an aetheryte, so her body was drifting in the aetherial sea and was slowly being dissolved by it. The only way for her to escape was from the aid of the White Mages in Gridania and if they had acted any later, she would have been completely consumed by the aether and died. Even though she escaped, she lost the ability to see naturally and has to rely on using her own body's aether to see, even though it is slowly killing her. Thancred manages to escape on his own, but he winds up in the Dravanian Forelands completely naked and exposed to the wildlife. While he managed to get help and fend for himself, his time spent in the aetherial sea robbed him of his magic to the point that even basic spells like Teleport and Return no longer work.
Zenos shortly in the main story shows firsthand why he is so feared when he does a surprise assault on Rhalgr's Reach. His forces brutally slaughter many of the innocent people there, nearly burning the place to the ground, with Zenos himself easily defeating the Scions there, even nearly killing Y'shtola. And then comes the first Hopeless Boss Fight in the game where he defeats the Warrior of Light so thoroughly that one of his katanas breaks. With that event any sparks of rebellion the Scions were hoping to fan in Ala Mhigo is quickly snuffed, forcing the Scions to look elsewhere.
The final boss of Doma Castle: HypertunedGrynewaht. A Garlean captain being hideously transformed into a gasping, screaming, enraged beast is unpleasant enough. The fact that it happens to be Grynewaht — a character who'd been treated as nothing but a harmless joke villain and a source of comedic relief in a large number of otherwise-tense Garlean cutscenes — only makes the whole thing far, far more horrifying. Special mention goes to the voice acting during the fight; Grynewaht's usual fairly deep voice and prideful demeanour are completely gone, instead replaced with infuriated shrieking, and his constant grandstanding is swapped for insane madness mantras that seem to imply that he's just barely capable of knowing he's soon to die. As per all tragic boss fights, the Warrior of Light can only close their eyes in pity after defeating him.
Grynewaht:DIE DIE DIE!! WE GO TOGETHER!!!
On another note with Zenos, the backstory about when he crushed the Doman Liberation Front. As part of the MSQ, the Warrior of Light gets to meet the remains of the Doman Liberation Front in their hideout-and there aren't many left. As part of the quest, you talk to Lyse, who is talking to a man who is telling her about Zenos, and how he did it. He goes into a story-told in sepia-toned screenshots-where he discusses how his strategy worked out and was like nothing they had ever seen-which involved most of his Legion not even taking the field, and still suddenly turning the tides when they thought they had him retreating. This part isn't so bad, more of an impressive account of his tactics. But it resulted in Zenos eventually cornering a number of the Liberation Front(and quite a few of them). He was alone and unarmed. He then discussed the results, which is the terrifying part. While there were very few gory details given, knowing Zenos' immense size, inhuman strength and brutality, you don't need a particularly wild imagination to picture what happened when the giant Legatus got his hands on those poor guys, and making them watch as he destroyed each one that he caught, in his attempt to at least get one of them mad enough they would be a challenge to him. On the imagination note? One of the pictures shown were of the dead, broken bodies strewn everywhere around his hulking form as he grabbed one of their katanas from the ground for the first time, taking notice of the weapon. They were placed in such a way where all of their heads were hidden, along with most of their upper bodies, as if to maybe spare the viewer the sight. Whether that was done on purpose or not? Up to the viewer to decide, but either way, have fun getting that potential image out of your mind.
Doman Liberation Front Member: And then he stood before us, his cornered prey. Alone and unarmed. He beckoned us to come forward and fight for our lives. One by one, my comrades charged. Fearless and unflinching, he would dance amidst their blades for a time, and then draw close, as if to embrace…One…after…another. He made us watch. Do you understand? He made us watch. I do not think there was any joy in it. Nor justice, nor morality, nor meaning. To him, the weight of one life is no different from that of a thousand.
In a similar light we see that the Empire is not just satisfied with magitek experimentation but have started experimenting on their very people like Mad Scientists to disturbing effect. Of note are the Roader enemies which look like skinned hulks with their limbs attached to wheels, heavily implying that the empire has been creating Body Horrors of their own people, or worse, the enslaved subjects of Ala Mhigo. And that is to say nothing of the Resonants, which gives those imbued with it with the power of the Echo, allowing such things as precognition or even fusing with and controlling primals.
We all got to see Exdeath in Deltascape V4.0, and he occasionally summons his true tree form's head in when he uses The Decisive Battle, and not to mention how he's engulfed by the Void at the end of the battle...just like in Final Fantasy V. But doesn't it feel like something's missing...? Something imp- OH DEAR GOD SAVAGE, NEOEXDEATH IN FULL HD 3D GLORY WHY!!! Well, at least he's not a seemingly endless mass of demons and monsters as his sprite back in the SNES days implied as they gave him a tail patterned after his tree form, but still.
The Koja monsters (and its similarly named brethren) roaming around in Yanxia are the same monsters from Final Fantasy VI (the buddha head/face enemy). Being in 3D for this game, they look slightly creepy until they open their mouths to attack with 1000 Needles; inside you can see their many blood soaked teeth and they're even growing on top of their tongues. Because they share the same animations as the Flans, the Kojas melt when they die. Seeing a face just melting into a puddle upon death is outright terrifying.
The Sirensong Sea, the first dungeon of Stormblood, is as nightmare-inducing as Tam-Tara Hard. First, it comes absolutely out of nowhere. You're just sailing to Othard, nothing big... then mist surrounds you. Weird mist. Then the ship is assailed with Voidsent-like jellyfishes and you got to fight them off until you collide with an island. You proceed to make your way through the place, fending ghosts, undeads, wildlife and even a few demons as you cross a ship graveyard akin to the one at Umbra Islands. Some of the undeads' design are terrifying, such as the second boss, which is a kind of skeletal Living Shadow that makes blue flames. Finally, you reach the source of the mist and the abominations: a haunted lighthouse still filled with the corpses and souls of the sailors that got wrecked by the place. And, finally, the final boss itself: Lorelei, an either demonic or siren-like being that has been luring sailors here for ages. Sweet dreams...
The main story quests in 4.1 gives us the nightmare scenario of a Primal manifesting right in the middle of many innocent people. The leader of the dreaming Ananta summons Lakshmi during a meeting of people who were deciding to form a government for Ala Mhigo along with some Scions standing guard, intending to brand all of them. Most of the ensuing battle is spent frantically running all over the arena preventing people from falling under Lakshmi's influence rather than attacking Lakshmi herself, and even with a fellow Echo-user you are eventually just overwhelmed; only Fordola'sBig Damn Villains prevents a disaster. It's a sobering example of just how easily someone could smuggle crystals into a hapless town or city and brainwash everyone in it in a matter of minutes, reminding the player that while Primals aren't much of a threat to them, they're a catastrophic threat to everyone else.
4.1 also gives a pretty chilling insight of how the Echo can make one be Blessed with Suck. While visiting Fordola in jail, the Warrior of Light has a flashback showing her Start of Darkness as a child when her father was killed by angry Ala Mhigan citizens since her parents were supporters of the empire. As soon as the Warrior of Light comes back to reality, Fordola has her own Echo flashback involving the Warrior of Light themselves as she sees their past pain and constant battles all the way back to A Realm Reborn. While the flashback is just quick screenshots of the past, it scares Fordola enough to have her wonder how the heck the Warrior of Light can still press on knowing that people betrayed them and how they'll always have to keep fighting. Later on, you find out that Fordola constantly sees the memories of the Ala Mhigan citizens and the jail guards, which shows her their pain and suffering that she caused during her time with the Skulls. The worst part is she can't control it or make it stop, thus she is subjected to guilt almost non stop and is forced to relieve what she done to people over and over. It's no small wonder that she wanted to be executed.
In 4.1 we see the cost of the Garlean's experimentation and alterations of the body. The Alliance is examining the research facility in Ala Mhigo. They've removed the corpses from the equipment and placed black tarp over the bodies. If you get to a high enough vantage point, you can see there's easily over a hundred different bodies of all races in this one room alone. This is far from the only such facility in the Empire.
Afterwards, Raubahn brings up a sobering possibility: if Aulus sent his findings back to Garlemald, and they're able to reproduce his work, you might be going up against other Resonants - maybe even an entire legion of them.
You're always told about how mad King Theodoric was during his reign as king of Ala Mhigo, but the Drowned City of Skalla shows just how much of a monster he was towards his own people. Some of the monsters you kill near the end of the dungeon were actually people that served the mad king. When you kill them, they have their final words before dying as themselves such as cursing Theodoric, seeing the light, or just plain wondering why the king did what he did to them. The final boss is even worse since, according to its Triple Triad card, it was actually Theodoric's cousin who had tried to calm him down and was accused of treason by him. The man's punishment was being transformed into a monster. The people suffering such punishment had to endure it for years. They were probably still self aware the whole time.
Asahi's true colors during his confrontation with the Warrior of Light. His affable demeanor completely shatters and is replaced by sheer, barely restrained rage◊ as he ferally snarls that the Warrior and all of Ala Mihgo will pay in blood for Zenos' death. The way he stares down the Warrior of Light looks almost exactly like how Zenos did before the final battle, only with barely constrained anger instead of twisted joy.
Status ailments are either mildly annoying or can be downright crippling in battle, but stopping to read the description for some of them can be downright terrifying, even though you don't get to see the graphic details:
Terror: You're so scared out of your wits that you can't do anything.
Brink of Death: While the game only states that all your stats are cut by 30% after being revived twice, knowing that your character is so weak that they are on death's doorstep isn't pleasant. What makes this worse is that at the release of Stormblood (4.0): this decrease of stats have been modified at a increase by 20%, making a whopping total of 50%.